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Paratroopers of the Folgore Parachute Brigade performing airborne operations training with a U.S. Army jumpmaster

The Paracadutisti (English: Paratroopers) are a speciality of the Italian army's infantry corps.


The first units of Italian parachutists were trained and formed shortly before the Second World War in Castel Benito, near Tripoli, where the first Military Parachute School was located. The first troops trained were two Libyan battalions, the Libyan Parachute Battalion and the 1st National Libyan Parachute Battalion, of the Royal Corps of Colonial Troops.[1] To these were added the first battalions of Italian army troops and the 1st Carabinieri Parachute Battalion (there were three Carabinieri Parachute Battalions). 1 Battalion Royal Carabinieri paratroopers, formed on July 1, 1940, used in Second World War on the North African front (1941). The Italian Air Force also had parachute units.

Later in Italy, the staff at Castel Benito was expanded into the School at Tarquinia and became the first elements of the future Divisione Folgore.

The divisions

Original military uniform of a paratrooper of the division Folgore in 1942

A second School was established in Viterbo and a new division, the Nembo (Nimbus or Rain Cloud) was being organized. A third division, the 183 Parachute Division Ciclone (Cyclone), was planned but the 1943 Armistice of Cassibile interrupted its organization.

Division Folgore

In 1941 a 5,000-man Parachute division was raised and was designated the 185th Parachute Division Folgore, it was trained for the assault on Malta in the planned Operation Hercules. When the Malta invasion never took place, the parachutists were deployed instead as infantry in the North African theater, despite being poorly equipped for this role. It was engaged in ground combat operations in North Africa from July 1942 until its destruction at El Alamein. Following this, a 185th Parachute battalion was raised from survivors.

At El Alamein, as part of the German-Italian Panzer Army the Folgore was to the south. It was attacked by the British 44th and 50th Infantry, 7th Armoured, and Greek and Free French brigades making a feint to draw attention from the objective of operation Lightfoot and to pin down the 21st Panzer and Ariete armoured divisions.

The heroic behavior of the Folgore Division during the Second battle of El Alamein in resisting the attacks of six British divisions (two armored and four infantry) inspired the respect and admiration of its enemy. Lacking effective anti-tank weapons, the Italian paratroopers managed to stop British tanks only with a few obsolete 47/32 guns and petrol bombs. On 11 November 1942, when the battle was over, the BBC transmitted the famous official bulletin: "The remnants of the Folgore division put up resistance beyond every limit of human possibility."[2]

The Folgore, having run out of water, withdrew from the El Alamein front at 2:00 a.m. on 3 November 1942, carrying their anti-tank weapons. At 2:35 p.m. on 6 November what was left of the division was captured by the British. They had exhausted their ammunition and destroyed their weapons, but refused to raise their hands in surrender or show the white flag.


183° Parachute Regiment parading 2 June 2006 in Rome

184th Division Parachutists Nembo was constituted in 1943 as a second division of parachutists, based on entirely new units as well as the 185° Regiment of the Folgore Division. Nembo was sent shortly before the armistice between Italy and the Allies of 8 September 1943 to Sardinia where it was decimated by malaria.

A unit of the same name was raised by the Co-Belligerent Army now fighting against the Germans, alongside the allies, as 12/183rd in the War of Italian liberation it fought in the battles of Filottrano, Grizzano Houses and in Operation Herring (the latter two as part of the Folgore Combat Group that was raised from surviving elements of original Division).

After the end of the Second World War the Nembo unit title was given to a mechanized infantry units that was stationed, in turn, at Belluno, Villa Vicentina, Cervignano del Friuli and Gradisca d' Isonzo. The latter was its base of operations until 1991, at which time it was reconstituted as the 183rd Parachutist Battalion Nembo , within the Folgore Parachute Brigade. The Folgore (Parachute) brigade had been reconstituted in 1960. The Nembo battalion in 1993 was expanded to a Regiment, and from 1991 it has participated in many international missions that Italy has joined.


The 183rd Ciclone Parachute Division was planned and the training center was established in early 1943 with four battalions forming, however, it was overcome by events and was disbanded in accordance with the 1943 Armistice.

La Spezia

1944 paracadutisti motorcycle

80 Infantry Division La Spezia (Airlanding) - trained and equipped similarly to the German Airlanding divisions, again for the Malta Invasion.

RSI Paracadutisti

A number of parachute units were raised by the RSI and were considered to be elite troops and fought well. The RSI Army (ENR), RSI Air Force, GNR, X Mas.

  • RSI Army - raised the 350 man 'Nembo' Autonomous Parachute battalion which suffered 70 percent casualties at the Battle of Anzio.
  • RSI Air Force - raised a three battalion 'Folgore' Parachute Regiment which became part of the 'Arditi' Group.
  • GNR - 'Mazzarini' GNR Parachute battalion of 300 men. It mainly operated against partisans in the Padovana Plains from August 1944 until 1945.
  • RSI Navy - Xa MAS - 'Nuotatori Paracadutisti' Parachute Battalion (Parachute Swimmers), which was formed by volunteers of the former Italian Navy's San Marco Regiment's Parachute battalion. A flood of volunteers joined the battalion increasing it to over 1,400 men.

The modern Airborne units

Paratroopers Brigade Folgore

[[File:Italian Soldier Olypmic Games Turin Folgore is the denomination of two distinguished units (for a long period, coexisting) of the Italian army: the Brigade Parachutists Folgore and the Division of Infantry (then Mechanized) Folgore.

Common heraldic elements to both units: the gladio winged of mostrine/fregi (integrated from a parachute for the Brigade Parachutists) and the yellow lightning bolt in the symbol of the unit (in red field for the Division of Infantry, in blue field for the Brigade Parachutists). The military school of parachuting (CAPAR) is located at Pisa.

Currently the Italian Army fields the Paratroopers Brigade Folgore with eight battalions, based in Livorno and stationed mostly in Tuscany. The Brigade is constituted around three paratrooper regiments (183°, 186° and 187°). There is also a training establishment known as CAPAR in Pisa (Parachuting Training Center, former SMIPAR - Military school of Parachuting, in its turn former CAP).


In 1982 the Italian Brigade Folgore landed in Beirut with the Multinational Force in Lebanon. In 1991, a Parachutist Tactical group was deployed to Kurdistan. Its mission was to provide humanitarian aid. From July 1992, the Brigade supplied personnel to Operation Vespri Siciliani i.e. Operation Sicilian Vespers. The Folgore participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia from 3 December 1992 to September 1993. Parts of the Brigade have been employed many times in the Balkans (IFOR/SFOR in Bosnia and KFOR in Kosovo), with MNF in Albania and INTERFET in East Timor. The Folgore participated from August 2005 to September 2005 in Operation Babylon in Iraq and to December 2014 in Afghanistan.

In August 2007, the Folgore took part in United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, under aegis of the United Nations (Resolution 1701), as a result of the war between Israel and Hezbollah of summer 2006.

Other parachute units

  • The 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment is a light Infantry regiment of the Italian Army, specializing in mountain combat (Ranger). The Alpini are the mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII). Today the 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment is a Special Forces unit of elite mountain infantry specialized in the airborne assault role.
  • Carabinieri - 1st Carabinieri Regiment "Tuscania"( Livorno) (or more properly the 1st Regiment Carabinieri "Tuscania") is a Special operation forces unit of the Italian Carabinieri. It is formed from paratroopers and is part of the 2nd Carabinieri Mobile Brigade along with the 7th Carabinieri Regiment based on Laives ( BZ), the 13th Carabinieri Regiment based in Gorizia, and the Special Intervention Group, which is also a parachute trained unit. The Tuscania is currently based in Livorno, and has approximately 550 personnel.

Italian Air Force Paratroopers

The Paratroopers of the 17º Stormo Incursori of the Italian Air Force are italian special forces. The specializations are Combat Search and Rescue (C-SAR) and Combat Controller (Forward Air Controller and Joint Terminal Attack Controller).

See also


  1. ^ Fowler 2010, p. 61.
  2. ^ « I resti della divisione Folgore hanno resistito oltre ogni limite delle possibilità umane. » (Radio Londra)


  • Fowler, William (2010). The Secret War in Italy: Operation Herring and No 1 Italian SAS. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 9780711035287.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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